I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.
–The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
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I don’t know what took me so long to pick up this book but I am so glad I did.
AUTHOR: Markus Zusak
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK/ WHAT FORMAT: local library / ebook
RATING: 5/5 stars
SUMMARY: The Book Thief tells the story of a German girl named Liesel who has just watched her brother die and has been given away to foster parents by her mother. She grows up in Nazi Germany, and her story is narrated by the personification of Death. Even though she initially struggles to adjust to life on Himmel Street, it is made slightly easier because she has befriended her neighbor Rudy and because her Papa is a man with a heart as deep as well and is skilled at playing a soothing accordion. One of the only ways that she and her friend Rudy can deal with the horrors of life in Nazi Germany is to steal; Liesel especially liked to steal books for her own consumption, since she was too poor to buy them for herself. The rest of the story describes how Liesel’s relationship with words evolves and warps because of the beautiful escape they can provide her and because of the horrors that Hitler’s words inflicted upon his people and upon those Liesel hold dearest to herself.
THOUGHTS: I absolutely adored this book, where to even begin? Zusak took a major risk by letting Death narrate this story, but it worked even better than letting Liesel narrate her own story. Death was able to capture the different and more encompassing perspective of the general events of World War 2, in a way that Liesel never would have been able to. Additionally, this gave the story a more mature perspective, and Liesel’s narration would have undoubtedly been more immature because she is only a young teenager. The way that Zusak outlined each part of his book, the way that he named his chapters, and the “notes” that Death left in the middle of blocks of text all added to the eccentricity and genius of the story.
This cast of characters is so lovable, and each of these Germans, even though they were part of the Nazi Party and were complicit in, if not directly responsible for, the pain that Germany inflicted during the Holocaust and the damage waged against the Allied forces. However, each character was humanized; there were so many beautiful paradoxes, such as the boy that was most sought out by Hitler Youth scouts was also the boy that risked his life to leave pieces of bread out for the Jews marching towards concentration camps.
I would have ugly-cried through many parts of this book if I had not been in public during those times. I was so in love with the world created here and the characters that populated it that I could barely stop reading. This book puts the best and the worst of humanity on display, but does so in a way that keeps you on your toes throughout the entire journey. In other words, I am saying that this book is a must read.